Friday, June 12, 2009

greenwashing sins

The Seven Sins of Greenwashing


  • The Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off occurs when one environmental issue is emphasized at the expense of potentially more serious concerns. In other words, when marketing hides a trade-off between environmental issues. Paper, for example, is not necessarily environmentally preferable just because it comes from a sustainably-harvested forest.
  • The Sin of No Proof happens when environmental assertions are not backed up by evidence or third-party certification. One common example is facial tissue products that claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing any supporting details.
  • The Sin of Vagueness occurs when a marketing claim is so lacking in specifics it becomes meaningless. ‘”All-natural” is an example of this Sin. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. “All natural” isn’t necessarily“green.”
  • The Sin of Worshiping False Labels is when marketers create a false suggestion or certification-like image to mislead consumers into thinking that a product has been through a legitimate green certification process. One example of this sin is a brand of aluminum foil with certification-like images that show the name of the company’s own in-house environmental program for which there is no explanation. This sin has been added to TerraChoice’s list since it’s previous report in 2007.
  • The Sin of Irrelevance arises when an environmental issue unrelated to the product is emphasized. One example is the claim that a product is “CFC-free,” since CFCs are banned by law.
  • The Sin of Lesser of Two Evils occurs when an environmental claim makes consumersfeel ‘green’ about a product category that is itself lacking in environmental benefits. Organic cigarettes are an example of this phenomenon.
  • The Sin of Fibbing is when environmental claims are outright false. One common example is products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified.

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